Summary and book reviews of Miss New India by Bharati Mukherjee

Miss New India

A Novel

By Bharati Mukherjee

Miss New India
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    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: May 2011,
    336 pages.
    Paperback: Jun 2012,
    336 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Karen Rigby

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Book Summary

Anjali Bose is "Miss New India." Born into a traditional lower-middle-class family and living in a backwater town with an arranged marriage on the horizon, Anjali's prospects don't look great. But her ambition and fluency in language do not go unnoticed by her expat teacher, Peter Champion. And champion her he does, both to other powerful people who can help her along the way and to Anjali herself, stirring in her a desire to take charge of her own destiny. 

So she sets off to Bangalore, India's fastest-growing major metropolis, and quickly falls in with an audacious and ambitious crowd of young people, who have learned how to sound American by watching shows like Seinfeld in order to get jobs as call-center service agents, where they are quickly able to out-earn their parents. And it is in this high-tech city where Anjali - suddenly free from the traditional confines of class, caste, gender, and more - is able to confront her past and reinvent herself. Of course, the seductive pull of modernity does not come without a dark side...

1

At nineteen, Anjali Bose was a tall girl, one hundred and seventy-three centimeters - five foot eight - taller than most boys in her college. She was on the girls' field hockey team. She smiled readily and when she did, she could light up a room like a halogen lamp. The conventional form of Indian femininity projects itself through long-lashed, kohl-rimmed, startled black eyes. Modest women know to glance upward from a slightly bowed head. Anjali did not take in the world with saucer-eyed passivity. Her light, greenish eyes were set off by high cheekbones and prominent brows. Her face resolved itself along a long jaw and generous mouth, with full lips and prominent teeth. Her parents, looking to the day they would have to marry her off, worried openly about her overly assertive features. But the rare foreigners who passed through town, health workers or financial aid consultants for international agencies, found her looks striking and her boldness charming. Speaking to them, she ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Anjali's outcome seems purposefully ambiguous. Discuss why the author may have done this.


  2. What are some of the challenges facing a small-town girl raised in India as opposed to a small-town girl raised in the United States? How do they compare?


  3. Explain why you think the author decided not to have Anjali deal directly with what happened to her by Subodh?


  4. Mr. & Mrs. Bose are not identified by name for the first half of the novel. When does this change, and why? How is Anjali identified in this same passage as Mr. and Mrs. Bose are named? By doing this, what is the author saying about Anjali, a character who is constantly searching for a new identity?


  5. Why do you think the author chose to name the novel after a beauty pageant? ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

Although Mukherjee's work begins with the familiar plot of a daughter who is not enthused by her parents' decisions about her future, the author is careful not to allow generational differences to serve as simple catalysts for trouble.   (Reviewed by Karen Rigby).

Full Review Members Only (963 words).

Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

This is a curiously unfulfilling book, as Angie drifts into events and out of them, never quite taking charge of her destiny.

Kirkus Reviews

A tightly woven narrative about naïveté and personal growth in contemporary India... Mukherjee explores Anjali's issues with understanding and sympathy.

Booklist

Starred Review. Each character fascinates, and every detail glints with irony and intent, as Mukherjee brilliantly choreographs her compelling protagonist's struggles against betrayal, violence, and corruption in a dazzling plot.

Library Journal

Starred Review. With its fast-paced story and sympathetic portrayal of a young woman trying to make it on her own against all odds, this novel is essential reading for anyone interested in contemporary Indian and Indian American fiction. Highly recommended.

Author Blurb Amy Tan
Enchanting! Mukherjee's pitch-perfect ear for character and mood and her story-telling gifts capture the exhilarating restlessness of a young Indian woman's pursuit of happiness. Miss New India illuminates as brilliantly as it entertains.

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Bengaluru (Bangalore), India

Situated on the Deccan Plateau in the south-eastern Indian state of Karnataka (aka Mysore), of which it is the capital, Bengaluru sits approximately 940 meters above sea level, and is one of India's largest and fastest growing cities.

Karnataka Map Legend suggests that Bengaluru was named after King Veera Ballala of the Vijayanagara Kingdom (14th century), who, lost on his travels, was given a meal of beans by a charitable elderly woman. He named the town "bende kaalu ooru" (town of boiled beans), which then became known as Bengaluru. However, the word "BengaLooru" is documented as having been used long before King Veera Ballala's time and can be found on an inscription on a 9th century temple in the village of Begur, rendering the legend rather ...

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